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The Four Stages of Retirement

| July 13, 2017
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Oftentimes retirement is referred to as a kind of end goal – we prepare and prepare, and once we’re done with our working lives, we retire. You’re right on track: working hard, saving consistently, and retirement is approaching. Suddenly you realize: you’ve been preparing to be financially equipped for retirement, but have you been preparing for the lifestyle changes that accompany retirement?

Here are some insights on the four main stages of retirement so that you can make the most out of this new chapter of life that you’ve been preparing so diligently for:


1. The Honeymoon Phase


Retirement is exciting – congratulations! The beginning of the honeymoon phase looks different for everyone. You may gradually transition into retirement by doing some part time work, or you may jump right in to full-scale retirement. If you want to keep working, explore the options available to you. Consider:

  • What interests you?
  • How many hours do you want to work?
  • Do you want it to be in the same field as your career, or something new?
  • How far do you want to commute to work?


Look for a retirement mentor. A retirement mentor is someone already retired and living a full, satisfying life. They have already navigated the challenges of early retirement and can provide you with guidance. If you can’t think of anyone, ask your financial advisor and friends if they know someone. You can ask your retirement mentor about things like:

  • How they decided where to live
  • How they get around
  • Navigating healthcare as a retiree
  • Maintaining an active social life

Consider your caregiving responsibilities and needs. Are you responsible for financial support to anyone in your family – parents, children, grandchildren, etc.? How long will that commitment last? Are you responsible for caring for your parents? These responsibilities and needs can affect your retirement budget and plans.


2. The “Big Decision” Phase


Once you’ve adjusted to being fully retired, you’ll need to start making decisions about the rest of your retirement. These fall into three main categories: residence, purpose, and access to things you enjoy.


Where will you live?

You’ve likely discussed this with your financial advisor already, but it’s important to revisit and reevaluate as your wants and needs change.

Do you want to stay in your current home? If so, you’ll want to consider:

  • Whether any maintenance repairs need to be made on your house now or in the near future
  • Whether any modifications may be needed for caregiving (ex. assisted stairs)
  • Do you own your home/how much is left on the mortgage?
  • When you become less able to perform household chores, will you have assistance?

Do you want to move into a new home?

  • When do you want to move?
  • Where do you want to move? Will it be closer to family, somewhere warmer, and/or to a smaller home?
  • Do you want to own or rent?


Where will you find purpose in retirement?

Without the time-consuming responsibilities of a job and raising a family, you’ll have a lot more free time on your hands. This time may be newly filled by travel plans and hobbies, but it’s important to take the time to explore what activities will make your life feel meaningful.


  • What types of art and culture might you want to participate in?
  • If you have connections with a faith organization, how might you become more involved?
  • Are there children you could care for in your spare time?
  • Are there civic organizations you’d like to be more involved with?
  • What activities bring you joy?
  • Which people do you love spending time with?


Maintain access to things you enjoy

More and more transportation options have become available for aging people, so that they are able to still access the things they love and need even as their mobility decreases. Research the options in your area:

  • How long do you plan to continue driving?
  • Where are the most important places you need to regularly visit? (Grocery, doctor, family, etc.)
  • If you can’t drive, do you have people who can drive you or public transport in the area?


3. The Navigating Longevity Phase

As you reach longevity, you may find that your health, mobility, and cognitive abilities are not what they once were. It’s important to be prepared ahead of time so that your needs can be taken care of in a way that you prefer.

Organize your financial situation with your financial advisor. Work with your financial advisor to make sure that your financial plan is up to date and coordinate with your attorney to make sure your estate plan is also updated. Consult with your professionals for advice on Social Security and Medicare, power of attorney, etc.

Organize your resources at home. Locate and organize all your important health, finance, personal, and other information (home maintenance, landlord, family addresses, etc.) and make sure it’s all in one easy to access place. Put it somewhere, such as a secure online vault, where family members can access it as well so they can assist you.

Set goals for self-care. You may become a caregiver for your spouse if their health begins to decline. It’s important to make sure you’re taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional needs through all stages of retirement, but particularly as you enter longevity and if you’re your spouses primary caregiver. Consider getting assistance with tasks like home maintenance and preparing meals, and break down your goals into actionable steps. For example, if you want to be more proactive in taking care of your health, you can set smaller goals like walking 10 minutes a day or making an appointment for a physical checkup.

Set a plan for getting things done around the house. Household chores can become increasingly difficult as you enter longevity. In order to keep living in your home safely and independently, you’ll want to identify the costs and trusted providers of services like cleaning, maintenance and repairs, lawn care, groceries, laundry, etc.


4. The Solo Journey Phase


In the fourth stage of retirement, health and physical issues can come abruptly to the forefront. The loss of a spouse can also occur – and that’s a major life event.

Care receiving. Eventually the day will come when you’ll need assistance to carry out daily tasks. Fortunately, once you reach this time, you’ve been preparing for this throughout the other stages of your retirement. Here’s a recap of the types of care assistance we’ve discussed:

  • Daily tasks you’ll need assistance on
  • All your important information gathered in one place
  • List of people who can assist with home maintenance, transportation to important locations, etc.

 Some other things you’ll want to research include:

  • Visiting assisted living and nursing homes nearby
  • Determining which family members, friends, and colleagues can be resources
  • Preparing your home for decreased mobility


Living alone. If you don’t want to or cannot move into an assisted-living or long-term care facility, plan ahead of time to make sure your home is well-suited to living along.

  • Care for a pet – this can help combat feelings of loneliness.
  • Know what services you can outsource.
  • Prepare for an emergency. Know what to do whether the emergency is medical, fire, weather, etc.
  • Host regular activities at your home, helping turn it into a hub for social activity.


Moving forward after being widowed. When a spouse dies, your world changes. Take your time to grieve, and lean on your friends and family for support during this time. Also consider joining support groups. Then, as the pain slowly lessens, you can approach life again, but with the new twist of being single.

  • Find a widow/widower mentor – like your retirement mentor, this person can help you navigate the challenges and unfamiliar territory that come in the aftermath of losing a spouse
  • Look to the future – who do you want to be? Do you want to travel, learn a new skill, be more social?
  • Spend time with people who care about you and who want to help you make this transition into this new stage of life.
  • Ask for help where you need it. As you learn to manage the responsibilities that your husband or wife once did, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to make your own informed decisions – trust your judgment and focus on gaining new confidence.


Retirement is exciting and complex. It’s new but rewarding territory. Here at Liberty Wealth Advisors, we’re here to help you holistically prepare for retirement – to help you create and stick to a retirement preparation plan, and to be there for you during your transition into retirement and through the years beyond. If you have any questions or concerns about preparing for and navigating the many facets of a fulfilling retirement, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Source: Hartford Funds/MIT AgeLab “8,000 days workbook”



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